London Mayor pledges £500,000 for city’s data economy

At the start of London Tech Week 2022, the Mayor of London is announcing £500,000 in funding for the city’s data economy, in the form of the Data for London platform

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced £500,000 in funding to support the capital’s data economy, coincident with the first day of London Tech Week.

The money will go into Data for London, a platform which will, according to a statement from the Mayor’s office, be a “central library for the vast amount of data held across the capital, enabling Londoners to access both public and private data more easily”.

The new “library” is a development of the Greater London Authority’s London Datastore, set up in 2010, which contains 6,000 datasets. It houses a Coronavirus Hub, which was accessed more than five million times in nine months during the pandemic.

It also contains a Planning Datahub, which holds data on more than 450,000 planning proposals, as well as an Infrastructure Mapping Application, which is used by utility companies to try to reduce the congestion and disruption caused by roadworks.

In this latest iteration, the datastore will play a role, said the Mayor’s office, in combating climate change and stoking economic growth by enabling app developers to join up data sets better.

It is envisaged that the collection of data from sensors around the city will help track and predict air quality more accurately and make energy systems more efficient, utilising artificial intelligence to make better forecasts.

The statement asserts that better joined-up data “can stimulate the tech sector to create advanced and live modelling of complex systems (known as digital twins), 3D models of the city to understand energy usage or air quality, or to improve public engagement with the planning system”.

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“The role that data and technology play in our lives grows bigger every day, and adapting to this transformation is crucial to the growth of our great city,” said Sadiq Khan.

“This new infrastructure will build on the success of the London Datastore and continue improving the lives of Londoners – fuelling innovation, creating jobs and addressing the climate emergency, and putting data into the hands of those who can make a positive difference for London.”

Theo Blackwell, chief digital officer for London and chair of the London Data Board, said: “Data is an asset used to understand complex city challenges better, improve or design new services for Londoners, and promote growth. 

“Data for London represents a major step forward in how our city links important data across public bodies and beyond for use by public servants, researchers, businesses and citizens themselves. It builds on London’s recognised leadership in open data and innovative data-enabled services, which are improving London every day in big and small ways. 

“For the first time, we are establishing a governance body to make sure the platform we create is as useful as possible, while ensuring that data sharing is as legal, ethical and secure as Londoners expect it to be,” he said.

Data services

The platform will link to more datasets held by public bodies than at present, said the Mayor’s office. It will also enable the creation of more data services by the GLA, businesses, academia and civil society, and third parties, “such as finding useful resources or facilities across the city, including electric vehicle charging points, neighbourhood air quality apps and tools”. 

Muniya Barua, managing director of policy and strategy at business campaign group London First, added: “Unlocking the potential of the huge amount of data held by businesses and the public sector will transform the lives of Londoners, drive innovation and boost economic growth.

“Having championed the role of data in the city’s future, we are delighted to see our vision come to fruition with the creation of the Data for London board.

“We look forward to working with the chief digital officer and the GLA to build a world-class data ecosystem that makes London the best city in the world in which to do business.”

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